THE NOSE KNOWS; JUST IMPROVE THE UMPIRING

July 24, 2010

Scott Ostler, of the SF Chronicle, talked about things ballplayers do on the field.

“As so often happens in sports-talk radio, a scholarly discussion broke out one recent morning.
The topic is worth continuing here because it says something about the blue-collar grit of the Giants.
On the “Murph & Mac” morning program, Brian (Murph) Murphy said he noticed that Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner, as
he leaves the mound after each half-inning of work, presses his glove to one side of his nose and blows.
Ah, the old baseball nose-blow. One of the charms of the game is that players do stuff on the field that if we did in
our workplaces, we would have our desks moved away from the general population, probably to a dark basement.
I sat near the A’s bullpen at Tuesday night’s game and reliever Craig Breslow paused during warm-up, faced the crowd
and performed a full major interior readjustment. And Breslow’s no rustic. He majored in molecular biophysics and
 biochemistry at Yale, wherever that is.
A caller to the radio show noted that one term for the al fresco nose-blow is the Farmer John. Which would make sense
for Bumgarner, who was raised on a farm in North Carolina. You never see a Kleenex dispenser on a tractor.
Gaylord Perry must be kicking himself. Perry loaded up baseballs with substances foreign and domestic. It’s probably no
coincidence that nine of Gaylord’s catchers died of mysterious bacterial infections. But Perry never thought of loading
up the ball Farmer John-style.
Bumgarner has never been accused of doctoring the ball, so that’s almost surely not his intent in letting fly as he
walks off the mound.
My guess is that his “turbo” (one of the many terms) is more a punctuation, a gesture of “mission accomplished.” It’s a
tough-guy thing, a way of marking his territory. If the superstar-thin Giants are going to make noise down the stretch,
they will need to display this kind of attitude.
In polite society, a subtle and tasteful fist pump does the trick. But this is country hardball, son.”

John Shea, also from the Chronicle, talked about my change of mind (based on something Frank Deford said) with regard
to instant replays of decisions of game officials- I’m now in favor of them.
John Shea gave an opposing view.

“As Doug Harvey tells the story, he was umpiring first base in a game in the ’60s, and a manager rushed out four times
to dispute calls, saying each time that a replay would prove Harvey wrong. Harvey eventually told the manager, “You can
take your replay and shove it because I’m better than any replay machine you’ve got.”
Harvey’s going into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, and maybe he actually was better than a replay machine, especially one
in the ’60s. Hey, players and managers called him “God.” He was that good. He didn’t have a Don Denkinger or Jim Joyce
moment. He’s not known for a brutal call that altered history.
Suddenly, Phil Cuzzi is known for costing the Giants their sixth straight victory. He did a terrible job Sunday,
especially when ruling that Travis Ishikawa was out at the plate in the ninth inning, giving New York an extra chance
to beat the Giants – which it did.
It’s the latest ammunition for the pro-instant-replay campaign, but we prefer the alternative. Rather than relying on
more technology, how about trying to improve the quality of umpiring in place? Such as:
— More in-season training. If players spend hours before a game hitting, fielding, throwing and running, umpires could
afford to spend more time on the fundamentals of making calls. Don’t simply appear at game time with all the answers.
— Encourage more consultations. Harvey’s all for this. Umpires need to double- or triple-check certain calls. Joyce
could have done everyone a favor, immediately after his unfortunate call in Armando Galarraga’s imperfect perfect game,
by meeting with his crew.
— Wait a second. Umpires love to make immediate calls, especially on bang-bang plays. Makes them feel authoritative,
which is fine – unless they’re wrong. Broadcasters hate delayed calls, but so what? Harvey was good at pausing before
calling. He wanted to make sure he got it right.
— Re-evaluate all umpires. Make sure they’re the best in the world. If someone’s better in the minors or elsewhere,
get him. Don’t be afraid to release a guy who can’t keep pace. General managers aren’t.
The more Doug Harveys, the better. As he said, “I know that there are no famous Doug Harvey plays, and I’m proud of
that.”

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